♪ gam made possible by the financial support of... and the following individuals and foundations... corporate funding for art of the western world is by movado, makers of the movado museum watch, the watch dial design in the permanent collections of museums throughout the world. captioning made possible by the annenberg/cpb project
for the first time since classical antiquity, a western artist asserts his own vision and western art finds its own distinctive style-- romanesque. although the roman empire was conquered by the barbarians and the lands of western europe were overrun by pagan tribes in the dark ages, roman civilization, and above all roman christianity, triumpd in the long run. converted to the new faith, the former barbarians became the heirs of rome and the founders of modern europe.
in the 11th and 12th centuries, the period we call romanesque, there was a remarkable revival of art and especially architecture. in the words of a contemporary, "it was as if the whole earth had cast off her old age "and was clothing herself everywhere in a white garment of churches." two of the most powerful forces molding the development of romanesque art and architecture were pilgrimage and the monastic movement. the romanesque church here at vezelay in france embodies both-- benedictine monastery and starting point on the pilgrimage route to santiago in spain. the story of vezelay echoes the story of europe during the crucial years of transition
between the 9th and 12th centuries. it was founded in the 860s in the great cultural and artistic revival of the french emperor charlemagne. vikings burned it in the violent 9th and 10th centuries. western europe was assailed on every side by slavs, magyars, saracens, and vikings. many people thought that christian civilization itself might not pull through. in response, powerful dynasties built great strings of fortresses in which their beleaguered populations could shelter. in the 1100s, europe turned the corner suddenly, as if the passing of the millennium was the release. we see a dramatic revival in the use of monumental sculpture and large-scale architecture such as had only been glimpsed in the previous centuries. the cult of saints and the passion for pilgrimage to their shrines
were dominant features of medieval culture. one of the most famous was the pilgrimage to stiago in spain. the church was believed to house a sacred rel of christendom-- the bones of saint james, santiago in spanish, one of christ's 12 apostles. from atop the tower at vezelay, you can still make out the old way of saint james, winding its way to spain. it's astonishing to think that hundreds of thousands of men and women made that pilgrimage during the medieval period. they undertook such arduous journeys for a multitude of reasons-- to plead for divine help, to ask for the cure of illness, to give thanks, to ask for penance. but above all they went for the salvation of their souls.
to achieve the state of grace conferred by his relics, they traveled great distances on foot... by boat... on horseback... wearing pical pirigarb-- the hat, the staff, the cockleshell symbol of saint james. but pilgrimage was not only a spiritual force, it was a dynamic, transforming element in society, enabling the exchange of ideas, goods, and especially money. there was a great deal of money to be made from pilgrimage. indeed, it was the offerings to the saints and their relics by pilgrims in their thousands that helped pay the construction costs of the great romanesque pilgrim churches lining the main roads to santiago. four main routes went through france to spain.
they joined at puente-la-reina in spain, where a single road passed through burgos and leon and culminated at santiago de compostela. in the center of france, the major starting point was the church of mary magdalene at vezelay. this great romanesque abbey church at vezelay in the heart of burgundy is built far too large for the needs of its local population. paul crossley is a distinguished architectural historian whose special interest is romanesque and gothic architecture. it served primarily two functions. it housed a large and prosperous community of benedictine monks, and secondly and most importantly, it was one of the foremost places of pilgrimage in france, for here was contained the relics
of saint mary magdalene. thousands of pilgrims came through the western portals of this church, and they found themselves in a sacred way... a long avenue of arches and aisles which led them to the distant and luminous choir where the body of saint mary magdalene was contained. the dout mediev christian, holy rel had the power to perform miracles. en the tiest fragment of the body of a snt encased in its riqry rapresented the power, the presence of the saint. much of the art of the time
was geared to the cult of saints and their relics. medieval artists lavished their skill on these reliquaries. only the most precious jewels and workmanship were considered worthy to hold, for example, a splinter of wood from the cross of the crucifixion... or the scowl of saint john the baptist... or the cloak of the virgin mary or the arm of a bishop or a saint. now, the status of a church and its attraction for pilgrims depended on the number and importance and of the relsion for that it held. churches competed for relics and even stole them from each other. "a vision commanded us to steal it," they would say,
or, "the saint told us she was unhappy in that place." if relics gave spiritual comfort, images--carved or painted-- instructed and terrified. to a largely illiterate congregation, images were essential to convey the church's message. in burgundy, autun cathedral is one of the most important pilgrimage churches on the route to santiago. autun was lucky to be able to attract to its workshop in around the year 1130 a sculptor of genius. we know his name, which is a rarity in the largely anonymous art of the early middle ages. he is called gislebertus,
and he signed himself, "gislebertus hocfecit," "gislebertus did this." he has a style distinctly his own-- vivid and with a feeling for expressive detail unprecedented in romanesque sculpture. his tympanum shows the last judgment, and in the center is the serene figure of christ the judge, the focus around which the whole composition of the tympanum turns. at its edges, angels blow the final trumpets. on christ's right-hand side are the saved. one of them wears the cockleshell badg of saint james to prove that his soul had been redeemed by making a pilgrimage to santiago.
little souls are already being received by angels. on his left-hand side are the damned... with lust, the young woman with serpents gnawing at her breasts, singled out especially. and perhaps most frightening of all, this pair of disembodied claws, which appears from nowhere and clutches a screaming soul. saint michael the archangel is weighing the souls. opposite him, a hideous devil is trying to tip unfairly the scales in his favor by pulling on them or inserting little demons into the scales. cowering souls hide in saint michael's coattails. and across this whole nightmare runs the inscription,
"let this terror appall all those bound by earthly sin." this figure of eve is one of the first monumental nes of the middle ages. seductive and sensual, she is the image of the sinner, the first sinner. her left hand clutches at the apple. her right hand is raised to her cheek in shame. eve was originally placed on the lintel of the north portal of autun cathedral. this was the penitence portal. it was very appropriate that eve should be here.
all the capitals with narrative scenes on them are carved by gislebertus. gislebertus shows us here, for example, the adoration of the magi, cut in deep relief, often using the drill to create charming effects of texture and surface. around the corner of the capital, saint joseph sits, a little disconsolate. another scene shows the flight into egypt. and perhaps the most moving of all the scenes is the dream of the magi, in which the magi lie in their bed and the angel comes to them as if in a vn, touching their hands and pointing with his other finger
to the star of bethlehem, which is to lead the magi. gislebertus' most dramatic composition is this one, the suicide of judas, where thscreaming devils e even pling on judas' rope to hasten his death. along with pilgrimage, the second great influence on romanesque art and architecture was monasticism. the monastic ideal had long been a spiritual goal of humankind, from the farthest reaches of ireland to the high himalaya. but western monasticism only really began after the fall of the roman empire
in response to the collapse of political power-- self-contained, self-sufficient communities cut off from the world. [chanting] the most famous order, the benedictine, was founded by saint benedict in the sixth century. his great rule--poverty, chastity, and obedience-- insisted on a life devoted to manual labor... devoted to prayer and to the copying and interpretation of the sacred texts. decorating these books was an act of devotion. during the middle es, sumptuous manuscript illuminations were the most important form of painting in western art.
by 1100, endowed with massive grants of land from kings and nobles, the great orders-- the benedictine, the cluniac, the cistercian-- held virtual monastic empires across europe, powerful patrons of art and architecture. this beautiful building is the priory church of paray-le-monial. it is, in fact, a perfect example of cluniac romanesque architecture at the height of its powers. where does the term romanesque come from? like many other widely used words in the history of art, like "impressionism" or "gothic," "romanesque" began its life as a derogatory term. historians in the early 19th century thought that the massive pillars and great vaults
of romanesque buildings looked rather like a debased form of roman architecture, and so they called it romanesco, or romanesque. in fact, the term couldn't be more apt, for early medieval patrons and architects were constantly looking back to the glories of the classical roman past, trying to build in the classical language of architecture in christian form. but to fourth-century christians, it was a practical matter. needing places of worship, they took over the long roman basilica, which became the standard form for christian architects in the west. gradually over the centuries, these architects transformed the roman form. they first added a great transept tit, thus making the church into a symbolic cross shape. at the west end of the building,
they added towers, breaking up the horizontal silhouette of the basilica with vertical forms. at the east end, they retained the roman apse, but made choirs more sophisticated with radiating chapels. and inside the building, they broke up the simple walls of the roman basilica with openings for the galleries and for the windows. and instead of the flat wooden roofs of the early basilicas, they used roman-style vaults. [speaking french] in the middle ages, paray-le-monial would never have been used for weddings, but nevertheless, the cluniac monks did encourage
a large lay congregation. but this church is not just a superb example of monastic architecture. it's a model by which we can understand the whole of high romanesque architecture in france. as a pilgrim or a member of the lay congregation, we would haventered this building through a porch and found ourselves in the wide and splendid nave, either in thcentral aisle, where i'm standing, or in the wide side aisles. we would have moved up the church to the crossg behind me, so called because it's here that the nave of the church crosses with those side spaces called the transepts. and beyond them, the most holy part of the church, with the choir, the high altar-- behind which the most important relics were displayed-- and beyond the altar, the curving ambulatory with the chapels radiating off it.
hundreds of pilgrims crowding into the church were dangerous and noisy, and so the medieval architect evolved this superb corridor around the high altar, which we call an ambulatory. this solved perfectly what one scholar has called "the traffic problem of the medieval pilgrimage." but perhaps most distinctive of high romanesque architecture here is the great tunnel, or barrel vault, above my head. almost every great church in france from the 11th century onwards had these stone vaults... and for very good reasons. until then, most churches had simple timber roofs over them, and as you can imagine, in buildings that were lit largely with candles, this was a terrible fire hazard. but there were other advantages in these great vaults, as well.
they were visually beautiful. they were acoustically marvelous. the cluniacs spent most of their day here in the choir, chanting the dine serves, d their gregorian chts wod be t by these barrel vaults upwards and dispersed through the whole church. so stone vaults were very much needed in romanesque architecture in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, but they posed considerable problems for architects then. they had no scientific knowledge of engineering. th also had very pritive eipment simple wooden cranes and simple scaffolding. there were bound to be failures. vaults oen collapsed in the middle ages. if a romanesque architect wished, however,
to find a go model for large stone vaulting, he could do no better than to look at the well-preserved examples of roman vaulting, which he could have found in the south of france or all around him here in burgundy. less than a mile from this roman gate in the nearby town of autun stands autun cathedral. like paray-le-monial, the cathedral is a perfect example of the influence of classical roman architecture on the romanesque architect. we can see the classical forms everywhere here-- the fluted pilasters crowned at the top by corinthian capitals. and in the middle story of the building, this characteristic composition of round arches separated by flat pilasters and closed by a horizontal cornice. these forms come straight from the local roman precedent here in tun,
thpont d'arroux. the romanesque style spread right across europe. in 1066, it crossed the english channel with the norman conquest of england. the normans stroyed most of the main anglo-saxon churches, replacing them with ones built in the french romanesque or, as it is known in britain, the norman style. and it would be in england that somof the most daring and original innovations were made in medieval architecture. durham cathedral, even by the standards of norman architecture in england, is a colossal building.
durham cathedral was begun in 1093 on the sort of scale and grandeur common to many great norman cathedrals of england in the late 11th century. durham is a masterpiece of structure, and that makes it, in a way, a slightly ambiguous building because durham is undoubtedly a romanesque church. in fact, it is a massive romanesque building, one of the largest, but it also has gothic elements in it. in the 19th century, archaeologists defined the gothic style as having three essential characteristics-- the pointed arch, the rib vault, and the flying buttress-- and durham has got all three of these. it's got pointed arches in the nave of the building. durham's also got rib vaults.
in fact, it's perhaps one of the first buildings in europe consistently to use rib vaults throughout the whole structure. and, finally, durham does have flying buttresses. you can't see them from down here below, but they do exist up in the dark triforium, supporting the gallery roofs, of course, but also taking some of the lateral thrust of these great vaults outwards and downwards onto the ground. do these three features make durham a gothic building? of course they don't, because durham, like every other romanesque church, perhaps even more so, supports the thrust of its vaults on great walls and pillars. it's not the buttresses that support this structure, it's the sheer weight of the masonry.
there's ornament at durham-- very exotic. there is the use, perhaps for the first time in england, of chevron ornament, this zigzag ornament, and perhaps most famously are the extraordinary incised patterns that the masons have placed around the great columns of durham. it is precisely this mixture in durham of strong romanesque forms and the beginnings of gothic elements that make it so important in the history of european architecture. back here at vezelay, the very moment of historical change can still be seen in the two distinct parts of the church-- the romanesque nave... and the choir here, pure gothic. and only 70 years separates the two.
this heyday of the romanesque style in the west had drawn on many influences-- native, roman, byzantine-- and even further afield-- and that reveals a characteristic of the arof the west from then until now. it has always sought change. the 11th and 12th centuries were a period of unceasing experimentation, with artists and craftsmen forever groping for new ideas and better techniques. the demolition of the romanesque choir here at vezelay-- almost new-- and its replacement by the gothic would soon be mirrored across europe. those gothic ideas we saw prefigured at durham were not at first followed up in england. it was north france which gave birth to the new style, a style which to contemporaries must have made the dignified romanesque seem old-fashioned almost overnight, but a style which ushered in
one of the greatest of all periods in the history of the art of the world-- the age of gothic. 1145. in this year, says a contemporary, robert of torigni, the people of chartres began to drag carts, harnessed to their own shoulders, laden with stone, wood, and other provisions for the building of the new church... their silence only broken by their cries to god for forgiveness of their sins.
the story of the cult of carts takes us to the heart of one of the most remarkable periods in the art of the west-- the age of the gothic cathedrals. of the churches builthen, one has come to stand for the rest--cathedrals. chartres. the church at chartres was burned down several times between the 8th century and the 12th. each time, the people of chartres willed its rebuilding. the craftsmen, sculptors, glaziers, masons, and construction workers flooded in from far and wide. but the people of chartres themselves provided the basis, in the money raised by selling the produce of their labors. they also provided the emotional commitment, and sometimes that could reach fever pitch,